Six University of Richmond students on the debate team met with President Edward Ayers and Provost Steve Allred last week to propose an alternate form of funding for the debate team.
The students proposed an interdisciplinary policy debate program in which funding would come from all of Richmond's schools, not just the school of Arts & Sciences, which houses the rhetoric and communication studies department.
Senior Ashley Fortner, a four-year debater, and sophomore Christine Parker, both of whom attended the meeting, said the president and provost wanted to resolve the issue in time for the next debate year.
"They were willing to weigh the fact that the rhetoric and communication department wants to use their resources where they want to, but that shouldn't mean the debate team should completely disappear," Fortner said.
The report the debaters presented to Ayers and Allred included comparative debate budgets from Richmond's peer institutions, letters from alumni and other debate supporters, the merits of having a full-time coach, as well as a reference to a book written about the benefits of policy debate.
Instead of reducing the debate budget to a student club, which could receive funding as low as $1,000, the debate team proposed an increase of its current budget to expand on the team's past success.
"Instead of taking this moment as a regression," Parker said, "maybe this is an opportunity for us to move forward."
The debaters expected to hear back from the president and provost after they spoke to the deans of all of Richmond's schools, as was discussed at the meeting, but Allred referred the debate team back to Arts & Sciences Dean Andrew Newcomb, who was originally involved in downgrading the policy debate team to parliamentary club level.
"[Provost Allred] seemed to indicate that since we started by talking with Dean Newcomb, it would be best for us to continue that dialogue rather than start a new one with him and the president," Parker said.
Fortner added: "It is important for us to know that we are being heard and not sent back down the ladder as a way of pacifying us without any concrete steps toward change. If our proposal is accepted, it requires a conversation that is much more expansive than simply the school of Arts & Sciences."
In addition to submitting a proposal, the debate team has been petitioning in the Tyler Haynes Commons. They have received more than 800 signatures from students in two weeks.
Before meeting with Newcomb again, the debaters intend to schedule another meeting with the president and provost.
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Members of the Sophomore Scholars in Residence (SSIR) Debate and Augmentation program are also fighting for the reinstallation of the policy debate team at its current level.
Students in this program live together in Lakeview Hall and take a three-hour class with Kevin Kuswa, the director of debate, each week.
If the policy debate team's budget for the 2011-2012 school year is not reinstated or increased, the debate team, Debate and Augmentation program, and director of debate position will collectively be terminated in favor of a club model program.
Contact staff reporter Julie Crandell at firstname.lastname@example.org
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